Welcome to FMEP’s Weekly Settlement Report, covering everything you need to know about Israeli settlement activity this week.
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August 2, 2019
- Consolidating Annexation of Area C, Part 1: Israel Issues Permits for 715 Palestinian Structures
- Consolidating Annexation of Area C, Part 2: Israel Issues Permits for 6,000 New Settlement Units
- Consolidating Annexation of Area C, Part 3: Big Promises for Efrat, Jordan Valley
- Canadian Judge: Settlements Are Not Israel (All Remaining International Law Supporters: AMEN!)
- Bonus Reads
Questions or comments? Contact Kristin McCarthy at email@example.com.
On July 30th, in an exceedingly rare move, the Israeli Cabinet unanimously approved the issuance of building permits for 715 Palestinian structures in Area C of the West Bank. How rare? Between 2009 and 2016 Israel issued only 66 building permits to Palestinians in Area C (more than offset by demolitions — over the past 2 years alone, Israel has demolished at least 400 Palestinian structures in Area C because they were built without the impossible to obtain Israeli permits).
The approval of even this comparatively small number of permits for Palestinians angered Israeli settlers and their supporters. They expressed outrage at what they characterized as Israeli government “support” for any Palestinian presence in Area C, the 60% of the West Bank settlers have been pressuring the government to unilaterally annex.
Statements made around the approval, however, make clear that the decision to issue the permits for Palestinian construction is not a concession or gift to the Palestinians. One Israeli security cabinet member who voted for the plan, far-right-wing Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich (Tkuma), stated in a Facebook post that Israel’s decision to issue the permits actually advances annexation, writing:
“In the last ten years, since the launch of the Fayyad program, the Arab vision of establishing a terrorist state in Area C has been fulfilled in practice. An area under full Israeli security and civil responsibility.
For the first time, the State of Israel will make sure that in Area C, there will only be construction for the Arabs who were original residents of the area since 1994 and not Arabs who came later from Areas A and B.
For the first time, the State of Israel will determine in a clear and unmistakable manner that original inhabitants of the area will be able to build and develop only in places that do not harm the settlement enterprise and security, and do not create territorial contiguity or a de facto Palestinian state. Places that do not serve the national interests of the Arabs, rather the national strategic interests of the State of Israel.
For the first time ever, the State of Israel will implement its sovereignty over the entire territory and take responsibility for what happens inside it. Gone are the days of construction plans pushed by the PA that serve its interests. For the first time, the State of Israel will create a tool basket for real enforcement that will be enacted to neutralize the Palestinian takeover plan.”
As Smotrich made clear, by approving the permits Israel aims to entrench and normalize its complete sovereign control over Area C and the 200k-300k Palestinians who have managed to continue living in that area (again, an area that accounts for 60% of the West Bank land mass), despite the coercive environment Israel has created designed to systematically push out Palestinians.
Peace Now writes:
“The goal of the construction plan is ultimately to serve the settlers, and not out of some sincere concern for the needs of the Palestinian population. The Israeli government is making a significant step toward annexing and applying sovereignty over the territories, and thereby severely damaging the prospect of reaching a political agreement to end this occupation of more than 52 years.”
Notably, an anonymous Israeli official attributed Israel’s approval of the Palestinian permits to American pressure to allow some Palestinan construction in Area C – a theory U.S. Ambassador Friedman denied. However, the theory that there was U.S. involvement in the decision is seemingly backed by two facts: first, U.S. Ambassador David Friedman (extraordinarily) attended the Israeli cabinet meeting at which the permits were approved; and second, the approvals were announced just one day ahead of Jared Kushner’s arrival to Israel. The theory is likewise bolstered by the reality that, as already noted, this issuance of 715 permits for Palestinian structures in Area C is not a generous gift to the Palestinians but rather a move designed to entrench and normalize Israeli control over Area C (60% of the West Bank) – an objective the Trump Administration has clearly embraced.
On July 30th, the Israeli Cabinet unanimously ALSO approved the issuance of permits for 6,000 new settlement units. This massive approval must not be overshadowed by the news of Israel’s rare (and clearly cynical) decision to issue 715 construction permits to the Palestinians (discussed above).
Though details of the settlement plans have not yet been published, if the 6,000 figure is accurate, the cabinet will have in one fell swoop approved around double the number of units Israel has advanced so far this year (which previously stood at 3,691) — bringing the total number of new settlement units approved to a whopping 9,691 – the most in a single year over the past (at least) four years – and the year is only two-thirds over. Assuming (conservatively) a family size of 5, this equals housing for nearly 50k new settlers.
Commenting on the issuance of the permits by Israel and the settlement approvals, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh rejected the current status quo in Area C, in which Israel decides what Palestinians can and cannot do with their own land. He said:
“We do not need permission from the occupying power to build our homes on our lands. Building on land classified as ‘C’ is a right for Palestinians that is not up for exchange with settlements or to treat both as the same. [The Israeli security cabinet’s decision] is aimed at deceiving international public opinion, legitimizing the settlements and attempting to equate Palestinian construction on their lands with the colonial settlement construction that steals the land, the water and the air. The settlements are illegitimate and illegal and will end as they ended in many countries and our right to our land will prevail despite all these decisions.”
In addition to the 6,000 units approved this week, during a campaign stop at the Efrat settlement on July 31st, Netanyahu promised to advance plans for 8,250 new housing units in Efrat. Netanyahu also reiterated his (now common) refrain that he will not allow a single settler to be removed, saying:
“No settlement or settler will be uprooted. That is over…What you’re doing here is forever.”
Meanwhile, one of Netanyahu’s biggest rivals in the September elections Benny Gantz (Blue & White) toured the Jordan Valley settlements where he proclaimed that Israeli will never cede control over the border region.
On July 29th, Candian Judge Anne Maktavish ruled that it is “false, misleading, and deceptive” to label wine from Israeli settlements as “Made in Israel.” The ruling, if effect, rebuffs the international campaign Israel and its defenders are waging to erase any/all distinction that foreign countries make between Israel and Israeli settlements built in the occupied territories, which are illegal under international law.
Naturally, the Candian judge’s ruling upset settlement defenders, who immediately announced their intention to request an appeal.
With this ruling, Canada has aligned itself with a small but significant chorus insisting on a policy which differentiates between Israel and its settlements. In June 2019, a senior advisor to the European Court of Justice issued a strong legal opinion advising the court that under EU rules, labels must make it clear if products originate from Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. Now, the onus is on the EU and its member states to implement the legal opinion.
In response to the Candian judgement this week, PLO Executive Committeewoman Hanan Ashrawi said:
“This is an important first step for Canada and beyond, as this landmark ruling is an affirmation of the supremacy of the law and Canada’s obligation to respect international law, which considers settlements illegal and does not recognize them as part of Israel.”
She also called out the EU, noting:
“It is long overdue for the EU to take the minimal step of properly labeling products originating from Israel’s illegal settlements and to ensure that its partnership agreements do not further enable or favor the continued looting of Palestinian natural resources and the profiteering from the commission is a war crime, as defined in the Rome Statute. Israel’s illegal settlement regime is the embodiment of its colonial agenda in Palestine and its determined efforts to deny the Palestinian people their inalienable rights to self-determination and freedom. The obligation of all states to respect international law and the Palestinian people’s national rights is absolute. Such respect can only be ensured by practical steps that deny Israel and complicit companies the ability to profiteer from the colonial occupation and the flagrant violations of international law. Accountability is the shortest and most assured path to justice”
In the U.S., Israel has benefitted from legislation passed into law by Congress and state governments that directly or indirectly defines “Israel” to include settlements. That legislative onslaught is chronicled and analyzed by FMEP’s Lara Friedman in tables tracking federal and state efforts (with specific focus on the inclusion of settlements).
- “What Israel’s Demolition of 70 Palestinian Homes Was Really About” (Haaretz)
- “Digging in the Holy Land: Evangelicals are excavating occupied soil to help their cause, and Israel’s” (The National)
- “Strange Bedfellows: Can Settlers and Leftists Work Together for Peace?” (Partners for a Progressive Israel)
- “With Settlements Strong on Israeli Agenda, Haredi Nationalists Pick Up the Fight for ‘Family Values’” (Haaretz)
- “US Amb: Not Ready to Talk About Palestinian State” (CNN)
- “America Joins Israel’s Campaign to Smear and Silence Palestinians” (Haaretz)